MacBook Pro Summer 2009 Mini-Review

My wife's MacBook Pro broke and was facing a $1700 repair out of warranty. Fortunately my Visa features extended warranty protection which extended the warranty by a year, and gave me the opportunity to replace it with a newer model. My wife volunteered (okay not exactly willingly but in the end it was her choice and did I mention that I love her?) to let me have the new system and she'd take my laptop.

In the end, I'm not sure that was such a good deal for me.

I ordered a MacBook Pro 2.66ghz 15" system with the GeForce 9600M GT video option and a 500gb 7200RPM hard drive.

The big drive is great - I love having a drive big enough to keep all my photos and music nearby.

But in most other ways, the "features" of this new laptop are working against me, not for me.

For example, the new trackpad. This is a big deal on this system - a much larger trackpad whose entire surface works as a button. You can click anywhere on the trackpad except near the very top, because the whole thing is hinged from the top. In other words, you can use what used to be the button area as trackpad surface in addition to being a button.

The problem here is that the separation of button and trackpad was apparently something my fingers depended on. I find that quite often my middle finger is moving the mouse and my index finger is clicking, but the two fingers are close enough together that the trackpad registers it as a mouse move before it sees the click, and I end up clicking somewhere below and to the left of where I meant to. This happens *all the time*. I'm trying to train myself to click with my thumb, which helps, but we'll see how this goes. I didn't feel like there was anything wrong with the old trackpad, so this is an upgrade that I could have done without.

Another upgrade I could have done without is the new screen. While the new glossy screen does make photos look much better than the matte screen on my old MBP, and some colours are much richer, I find that text has become just ever so slightly blurry or fuzzy. It's not much, and again maybe something I'll get used to, but right now, every time I open up and start using the new system the lower quality text strikes me. I have my old MatteBook Pro next to the new one and the difference is minor, but noticeable.

The glossy screen sucks. At work, where I frequently use this system, the overhead fluorescent lights make parts of the screen very difficult to see. I find myself adjusting my position or the screen position as I read through a screenful of text, or moving the window containing the text around the screen to somewhere where the glare isn't so bad. This is a silly way to have to use a computer. I'm going to look into a matte overlay and see if that helps - I expect it will, but it's a $35 expense I shouldn't have to make.

There's another $50 I shouldn't have to spend, on the DisplayPort adapter I need to buy. Nobody has DisplayPort compatible hardware, and the system doesn't come with an adapter. That's just an annoying $50 Apple tax.

The closing mechanism is different than the old MBP. The old system had a button you have to press to unlatch the screen before you could open it, and this one uses magnets to hold the lid closed. This means it takes a bit of force to get the lid to move, which can be awkward when you don't have the laptop sitting on a desk. I'll get used to it, but I don't see it as an improvement.

Also, the screen hinge is much looser than previous laptops. You ever hand an open laptop to someone? Picking this one up and moving it by the corner (which we probably shouldn't do but I've seen lots of people do it) seems risky because the screen is so loose that it can flip closed or (more troubling) all the way open as you move it, which has got to be bad for the hinge. (Apparently I'm not the only one who has a problem with this)

Ah well, I'm sure in a few weeks I'll forget about most of this. But so far my experience with this "upgrade" hasn't been very good. The keyboard is an improvement, photos look better, I like having an SD slot and the bigger HD, but that's about it for positive aspects of the new model in my experience. I'd actually consider returning it and opting for a refurbished older model but because I went for the 500gb HD it's a custom build-to-order purchase and Apple's return policy doesn't allow me the option of returning it.